Kings of Spain open celebrations for 500 years of Havana


Covered by a cloak of antiquity that seduces and attracts visitors, the capital of Cuba began several years ago an arduous task of restoring its heritage, including a Golden Dome Capitol, to celebrate its anniversary on November 16.

This is the first state visit of the Spanish monarchy to the island, one of the last colonies in Latin America, which separated from Spain in 1898.

King Felipe VI and his wife, Queen Letizia, together with Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, will leave Cuba on November 14, before the central date, when the allied rulers of the island and other personalities are expected to attend.

"It is true that it does not go with the date of the celebration, but it is a very clear reason, with the desire of the government to avoid an uncomfortable contact with Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) and Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela)", close to Cuba, who would attend to the celebrations, the academic Carlos Malamud, of the Real Instituto Elcano, of Madrid, told AFP.

Signal to Trump?

The party in the capital of Cuba comes at a time when President Donald Trump increases the blockade that the United States has maintained since 1962 with more than 180 measures.

Among them is the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which puts foreign investments on the island under risk of demand, many of them Spanish. Madrid has strongly opposed that rule.

Spain is the third largest trading partner of Cuba, with $ 1.390 million in exchange in 2018, just behind China and Venezuela.

He is also the first foreign investor on the island, and Felipe VI will try to prop up that privileged position against the United States, according to analysts.

It is a "clear message to the White House on a long postponed visit," said Cuban scholar Arturo Lopez-Levy of Holy Names University.

But the royal visit, which occurs just after the general elections in Spain on Sunday, also caused a stir in the country, where leaders of several right-wing parties have criticized the trip.

For Malamud, "it is important to point out that it is not an initiative that can be taken by the socialist government of Pedro Sanchez, but that it began to forge under the government of the Popular Party of Mariano Rajoy" (right).

Sanchez traveled to Havana in November 2018, on the first official visit of a Spanish head of government in 32 years, and was pleased to have "broken the ice" between countries.

The celebration, with music, dance and shows, includes on the eve of giving three turns to the symbolic ceiba, whose shadow was celebrated the first mass and the first town hall in Havana in 1519. At the foot of this tree a wish is made.

Although the king will not be there, the first state visit of a Spanish monarch to Cuba seeks to mark "the normality of relations," according to Malamud.

That implies that there will be no meetings with the Cuban opposition, as Juan Carlos I and Sofia had not done when they were in Havana in 1997 for an Ibero-American Summit.

The Cuban ambassador to the European Union (EU), Norma Goicochea, considered the visit "very positive."

"There have been moments of tension in relations, but we think that both states have done their part so that this tension has simply passed," said the diplomat, referring to rubbing during the government of Jose Maria Aznar (1996-2004).


After the war of independence of Cuba (1895-98), in which the Americans supported the Cuban rebels, Spain lost its last colonies: Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam.

During their visit, the kings will travel to Santiago de Cuba (southeast), to honor the defeated Spanish forces at the end of the 19th century.

In Spain there are those who still regret that, but there is a phrase of consolation: "More was lost in Cuba," some say, alluding to the fact that this conflict "marked the end of the Spanish empire and the end of a form of Spanish presence in Cuba. , which was later changed to another, "says Malamud.

Around one million Spaniards emigrated to Cuba in the first three decades of the twentieth century, including Angel Castro, father of Fidel and Raul, leaders of the socialist revolution.

According to the Spanish embassy, ​​the Spanish community in Cuba is made up of about 150,000 people, of which more than 100,000 obtained the nationality of the European country through the so-called Historical Memory Law.

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